Marijuana may remain illegal federally, but in most states, it’s accessible for adult medical or recreational use. On November 7, voters in Ohio made it the 24th state to approve legal recreational marijuana.
In 38 states and Washington, DC, voters or legislators have approved comprehensive medical programs. In late March, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed a law legalizing medical use in his state, but it won’t go into effect until 2025.
Twenty-four states and Washington D. C., have passed legal adult recreational use policies. Ohio’s law will go into effect 30 days after the election.
Legalization policies, both medical and recreational, exist in a legal gray area, with variation between states in regulation and taxation. For example, in Washington D.C., Congress stepped in to stop legal sales, so possession is allowed, but sales are technically not. A few other states that do not have comprehensive medical programs do allow for small amounts for medicinal use, under very strict circumstances.
The movement to legalize has accelerated since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. In 2012, Washington and Colorado were the first states to approve legal recreational use.
Since then, Americans have increasingly supported legal cannabis, and legislatures have taken up the issue more often in recent years. In 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned individuals convicted for simple possession under federal law and ordered a review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. Under federal law, Schedule I drugs have no legitimate medical use.
This story will be updated regularly as the landscape of legal marijuana changes.
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